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'Stop the symbolism' - Green Party call on Govt to take 'real' climate action

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must scrap the Government's 2040 national development plan if he is serious about climate change, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan insisted the promise-filled plan is binned to help address growing climate change fears at a Green Party European elections event on Friday.

Speaking alongside his parties candidates senator Grace O'Sullivan for Ireland South, councillor Ciaran Cuffe for Dublin and Saoirse McHugh for Midlands-North West, Mr Ryan said it is not good enough for Government to take "symbolic" climate change steps.

Insisting on real reforms to back up the headline-grabbing promises, he said if Mr Varadkar is genuine about his recent climate change comments then he must scrap the 2014 national development plan.

"What the Taoiseach said last week says it all, he said our approach to climate change is symbolic. That is not good enough.

We had the top European civil servant in the Oireachtas on Thursday saying every country has to commit to going 'net zero' emissions by 2050.

"[French] president Emmanuel Macron and eight other countries agreed to that last week, but our Taoiseach didn't.

"It's difficult for the Taoiseach, but he has to give up the 2040 national development plan because it is not fit for purpose. It only gets us 30% of the way towards our 2030 target, but does nothing to bring us to the longer target.

"We are calling on the Taoiseach to stop the symbolism, start taking real action, start joining other progressive European countries admit the national development plan which had no climate assessment done is not fit for purpose and has to go," Mr Ryan said, adding:

"We want real action, not just words."

Mr Varadkar launched the 2040 national development plan in February 2018, saying it will see almost €116bn invested in a series of road, housing and infrastructure projects over the next two decades.

The Government insists the plan is needed to ensure there is a coherent framework in place that will not be repeatedly changed depending on which party is in power.

However, opposition parties have constantly questioned the value of the plan, saying it amounts to Government promising measures in the distant future which have no way of being proven accurate or not at this stage.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same launch - which saw candidates hold up placards calling for EU support for energy community schemes, community farms and greater bio-diversity protections - Mr Cuffe said the climate change message is "resonating" with voters.

Ms O'Sullivan said there is a "need to support enterprising communities like farmers and fishermen, that's the real approach to climate change", while Ms McHugh said climate change is not just a middle class issue as "lower income communities will be affected first and worst".

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